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Gosick: The Novel    by Kazuki Sakuraba order for
by Kazuki Sakuraba
Order:  USA  Can
TOKYOPOP, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Most Japanese mysteries that I have read have been a little short on action. Gosick by Kazuki Sakuraba starts out this way, but soon action waits around every turn, making the story easily accessible to teen and pre-teen mystery fans.

In 1924, Kazuya Kujo decides to attend prestigious St. Marguerite Academy in the tiny country of Sauville in order to escape the stigma of being the third son of an Imperial soldier. Being the only Asian at his new school, he feels like an outcast, but has made two friends Avril, a British girl studying abroad, and Victorique, a reclusive genius who hides away in the school's tower conservatory. One day, Avril tells Kazuya a ghost story about the Queen Berry, a ship that sank destroying the evidence of what appeared to be a violent massacre. Legend has it that the Queen Berry still appears, taking new passengers to a watery grave.

Victorique has no time for stories as she is busy solving real mysteries just by thinking them through. Unfortunately, the credit always goes to eccentric police detective Grevil de Blois. Victorique begins to change her mind, though. On an outing with de Blois, she and Kazuya come across an invitation that leads them aboard the Queen Berry. Soon, bodies are piling up and the two teens, two young adults, and an older man are the only ones left. However, one among them was a rabbit in the original Queen Berry incident, and Victorique must use her powers of observation to solve the mystery before it is too late.

The back of the book compares Sakuraba's Victorique and Kazuya to Sir Author Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but I think a better comparison would be to a fictional detecting duo that was still being written at the time that Gosick takes place Dame Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Capt. Hastings. For one thing, the atmosphere and characters in Gosick are far richer than anything found in any Holmes mystery, but are right on par with Christie's novels. Also, while Poirot likes to sit and think and send Hastings on errands, he often becomes actively embroiled in the mystery, just as Victorique does. Plus the action moves faster and is less chatty in Christie mysteries than in Doyle's works, and Gosick does move along quickly.

Kazuki Sakuraba's Gosick is a tightly compact mystery that younger mystery fans will enjoy. While it is the first in a series (this did confuse me a little since there is only the series title), it can easily stand on its own. However, I think some of the backstory between Kazuya and Victorique will be understood more in depth after reading the manga of the same name.

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